02/02/2012 02:22 pm ET

Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum Attack Mitt Romney Over 'Very Poor' Comments

Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum attacked Mitt Romney over his comments Thursday that he wasn't "concerned about the very poor" because they have a safety net in place.

"I really believe that we should care about the very poor, unlike Governor Romney. But I believe we should care very differently from [President] Barack Obama," said Gingrich Wednesday at a Las Vegas factory. "What the poor need is a trampoline so they can spring up, so I am for replacing the safety net with a trampoline."

Gingrich added, "Unlike Gov. Romney, I really care about making sure every person has the right to pursue happiness." He also attacked Romney's support for automatic minimum-wage increases, which, he argued, if done in the 1970s would have triggered "massive unemployment in the European tradition."

Romney said Wednesday he was more concerned about the middle class than the "very poor" or the "very rich." "I'm in this race because I care about Americans. I'm not concerned about the very poor. We have a safety net there. If it needs repair, I'll fix it," the Republican front-runner said on CNN. "I'm not concerned about the very rich, they're doing just fine. I'm concerned about the very heart of the America, the 90 percent, 95 percent of Americans who right now are struggling."

Romney later tried to clarify his comments on his campaign plane Wednesday. "No, no, no, no, no, no, no," he said, referring back to his complete comments. "My energy is going to be devoted to helping middle-income people," he said.

Rick Santorum also criticized Romney. "I think it shows a callousness on the part of Gov. Romney -- you know this is people we're talking about who are on the margins of society," he said Thursday on St. Louis radio station KMOX. "Again, what it shows of Gov. Romney is that he looks at the poor differently. That being poor is a disability."

Romney's Republican rivals aren't the only ones attacking him for the gaffe. The DNC created a web ad Wednesday featuring his comments.